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In August of this past summer, I had the privilege to attend the first ever Iowa Leadership Retreat held at Grinnell High School.

Numerous schools were in attendance to listen to a guest speaker, take different workshops, share a pizza lunch, and learn what it means to be a leader. This retreat, new this year, was a requirement for any student wanting to run for a position of the Iowa State Chapter Board.

The Retreat opened with an inspiring speech by Mr. Michael Hunter. He encouraged the listeners to "reach down, punch up". Reach down, find people among you to work with you and then together, punch up! Make big changes in places bigger places.

I spent the rest of my day teaching a joint leadership workshop with Abby Kurth, one of the six Iowa STOs. We focused on troupe dynamics, flexibility as leaders, delegation, and having some fun.
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Connecticut! One of the smaller states, but the amount of passion it has for the arts exceeds the size by many miles. 

Enough of that strange analogy because the Connecticut State Conference was spectacular! I don't think that I've seen so many people at our state conference ever before! This year we had five schools participating, which definitely beats the two schools we had last year. And let me tell you, the old saying "The more the merrier" was definitely true for me.

As soon as I walked into the school building I was put to work explaining what guidebook was to one of the schools that were joining us that day. (It's also really awesome to see that many of these festivals are working on going mobile because it can really translate well with us teenagers who are way too into our technology.) Then the STO and I were sent to the stage to do our heroic intro given that the theme was also Adventures in Theatre: Think Outside the Box! ​Then we were all set off to our first workshop of the day

My first workshop that day was tech challenge, and although I'm not much of a techie I got to witness a lot of the techies in action. It was amazing to see how fast some people could fold a drop, change a set or get me in and out of clothes as fast as possible. Oh, did I forget to mention that I was the quick change model? Indeed I had to change from full army uniform to a ball gown many... many times. It may have been quite repetitive, but it was quite the experience being quick changed.
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Once upon a Thursday, my friend Abby Kurth (Iowa STO) and I drove up with our director, William Myatt, to Cedar Falls, IA. Abby slept all three hours and, of course, had her picture taken many times as shown below.

Once there, I helped the Iowa STO board organize, traveled to the campus festival location to stuff registration bags and boxes, and came back to the hotel conference rooms to create IE Judge goodie bags and to vote on various scholarship winners.

Here is the wonderful and ever-silly Iowa STO board hard at work.
(From left to right, Chester Pelsang, Katie Savely, Emilee Cruchelow, Danny Zanger, Abby Kurth, and Joshua Randolph)

After Thursday's hard work, we were ready for #IAThesFest14 to start Friday morning.

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One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.


Our latest Spotlight Member is Amy Sidwell, troupe director of Troupe 7042 at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy in Woodburn, Oregon. Amy’s earned a bronze MVM ribbon on her profile and teaches IB Theatre (among other classes), a recurring topic within the Community. I asked Amy to answer a few questions for us so we could learn a little more about her.

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Last week I attended the webinar presented by Mr. Jim Palmarini regarding the National Core Arts Standards. The standards were published under the National Coalition for CORE ARTS Standards (NCCAS), in affiliation with the Educational Theatre Association and the American Alliance for Theatre Education, on June 4, 2014. This three year research project included 130 writers, and 6,000 reviewers. Their goal (in simplified terms) is to establish arts education for K-12 grade levels.

While a lot of the information was geared towards arts educators, a few things stuck out to me that I would like to share with you all!

What it means to be Artistically Literate:
  • Use a variety of artistic media
  • Develop creative personal realization
  • Cultivate culture
  • Find joy in intellectual ideas
  • Seek artistic support
The most useful component for students, I believe, are the Anchor Standards. The Anchor Standards are the following:
  • Creating
  • Performing
  • Responding
  • Connecting

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    We are absolutely past the honeymoon period of the year by this point, the point at which some of us start wondering 'why are we doing this?', hopefully before realizing that, as Theatre teachers, we probably have the best job on campus. (Apart from the science guys who like to blow things up, of course. But, we also get to blow things up. As long as there's a fire marshall and strict adherence to OHSA regulations, of course.)
    The other major thing that tends to blow up for the new theatre teacher is the question of time management, or priority setting, or, because I like strong visual metaphors and have a curious love of capitalization, what I call Managing Your Spinning Plates. And it really does feel more like, in the first few years of this position, you are essentially trying your best not to create too much breakage. But if some of those plates fall, it's really okay. Sometimes plates just spin out of control and make this dreadful crashing sound, and we learn from it (hopefully!).

    In the Western hemisphere referred to generally as North America and Europe, there is an increasingly burdensome pile of tasks for us to complete, and what works out as diminishing time to complete them in. As teachers in 2014, with the increased pressure of new Common or State Core Standards which are loved and loathed in equal measures and brand new, more rigourous demands on our students and on we, the educators, it can be hard to remember that yes, we too are human, and that without balance, the whole ensemble of our being is likely to fall apart. In plain English: there's a big pile of stuff on our desk, and we have less time to manage all of it.
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One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We plan to shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

Our latest Spotlight Member is Bryan Ringsted, troupe director of Troupe 7618 at Leigh High School in San Jose, CA, home of the world’s

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Well, I've gone to my official first thespian festival. 


Well the drive over may have been a little long, but I knew that it would be completely worth it. When I arrived on campus I was immediately put to work! I met up with Brianna Brooks (a thespian alumn) who helped to guide the STO to open up the festival with excitement and preparedness by doing the whole spiel of the rules for festival, introducing our guests, and then going to do connection circles. They were also very kind in letting me join the STO in their opening and letting me take a HUGE SELFIE (or rather a vine) WITH ALL OF THE MAINE THESPIANS!!! While also leading my own connection circle (and getting to know all of their spirit animals!).

I also took a picture with the STO (Feirce!)

Sadly I didn't have the opportunity to lead my advocacy workshop [u_u,], I still had the opportunity to do my leadership workshop! If I compare this session to the leadership workshop that I led in Michigan (which had about 80+ students), this time around you would consider it quite small... Okay quite
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It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the final day to register for the 2014 TOTS-EAT Campaign! I am anxious to witness the enormous difference our troupes are about to make in their hometown through this project! Please continue to feel free to reach out with any questions you may have concerning your troupe's collection efforts.

This month, we headed south to speak with 
The Atlanta Community Food Bank, located in Atlanta, Georgia. I had the privilege of speaking with Angie Clawson,  Public Relations Manager
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This past weekend I spent 3 days with the Oregon Thespians at their teacher conference, led by Scott Walker and the newly combined board of the Oregon Thespians and the Oregon Theatre Educators Association (OTEA). Oregon is a gem of a place, and this weekend was a gem for me in my EdTA journey.

The teacher conference included high school and middle school teachers from all over the state with a diverse mix of schools, EdTA members and nonmembers, veteran teachers and new teachers, and representatives from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Western Oregon University, the Oregon Alliance for Arts Education, and a Foundation in Seattle. I love the progressive thinking of the Oregon board as they go outside their circle and include a wider community to build their programs on a larger “stage.”    

If you think you are busy, you should take a look at what these guys do. In the past couple months -- all on a volunteer basis on top of their full time jobs and directing their plays -- they have led Camp Thespis for students, Leadership Summit for student leaders, an Improv Festival for high school and middle school students, this teacher conference, and are heading into their IE judges training day which occurs simultaneously in 3 cities and onto their regional competitions. The big state festival occurs in April. Their attendance continues to grow. I am especially encouraged by their growth in junior thespians and the inclusion of middle school students and teachers in these events.

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The Educational Theatre Association is excited to announce the launch of their new online College Resource Center: your one-stop shop with everything you need to find the right school and the right theatre program. With the resources that only EdTA can provide, the College Resource Center will help you…

1. Search hundreds of schools in our College Theatre Directory.

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One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

Our latest spotlight member is Sonja Brown. Sonja is a Thespian Troupe Director at Phoenix High School in Phoenix, OR and a Thespian alum of Troupe 1777. Sonja is an active, engaged and vital member of the Theatre Education Community. She is always willing to ask a great question that frequently helps many other members in the community. She is also always willing to share advice and engage in discussions. Sonja was the recipient of the Educational Theatre Associations National Conference Grant for Theatre Educators. I asked Sonja to answer a few questions for us so we could learn a little more about her.

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As we head into the month of October, Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat (TOTS-EAT) registrations are arriving at the National Office and troupes around the country are beginning their collection efforts. With the October 15 deadline for registration quickly approaching, I have received a flurry of emails requesting information regarding the ultimate destination of the canned goods students will be gathering.

One of the many great things about the TOTS-EAT campaign is that, while the campaign itself is nationwide, students have the opportunity to connect directly with the organizations they are contributing to, as each troupe chooses a local organization to be the recipient of their collected food items. In an effort to spread awareness and promote these organizations and the incredible work they do, this month will debut the new blog series “TOTS-EAT: Food Banks Across America.” Every few weeks I will be interviewing representatives of food collection organizations around the country.

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The ITO take on New York!
From the Laguardia Airport to Time Square, the hustle and bustle of New York was all around. Taxi drivers honking for no good reason and every person with a one track mind. If you wanted to get ran into and nudged by strangers, this was the place to be. Aside from all of that, the scenery and vibrations of the big city filled my heart with inspiration and a certain passion to make it back there one day. Working with Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS was the best! The ITO, alone, helped to raise just under 3,500 dollars at the Broadway Cares Annual Flea Market. The people who dedicate their time to this amazing fundraising community are phenomenal and I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to work with them. The other ITO and I had a blast! We were fortunate enough to see three shows on Broadway, which were Pippin, The Country House and Matilda. Our touristy adventures brought us closer than ever and I'm extremely excited to see what we accomplish this year.
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Last weekend, I hopped off the train, grabbed my bags and roamed the streets of New York to meet up with my student leadership team. And I had an absolute blast!

Our first day there we went to the Broadway Cares office and talked with Joe Norton about the full extent of Broadway Cares. They do a lot more things than I though of at first. Although the name does say Broadway Cares/Equity fights aids, they also have a bunch of charity events (such as Broadway Bares, and various one time cabaret events) and the Broadway Green Alliance where they focus on being environmentally friendly and recycling. 
Afterwards, we met with Alex Sarian, and we discussed what advocacy really is. We talked about how it isn't just telling a story, but rather telling the story. In this case, it's telling the story of how being involved in theatre has affected not only my life, but how theatre has affected those around me. On top of that, I learned that theatre students are usually the students with higher grades and better SAT/ACT scores, and administrators and educators like hearing that kind of information. However, whenever I advocate, I must always be careful about who I'm talking to and how I'm talking about the topic, because if anything is said the wrong way, it could end up hurting me instead.  
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It has officially been nine months since I have been involved in a musical or show. Nine. Months. I am initially a very busy person and when I do not have a show occupying my time, I tend to slump into a funk. Like a bad funk. But for the first time, in a very long time I believe, I was brought out of this funk by something that didn't involve me belting as loud as I could on a stage. Last week, my ITO's and I traveled to New York City TOGETHER and advocated about the arts as well as working the Broadway Flea Market. From back stage tours to meetings with very distinguished individuals, I can not possibly think of a better weekend. I started my journey by meeting up with Dany and having to call a car to pick us up, which is more difficult in practice.

soon as we reached the hotel, we left our bag with the luggage man and we were off to pour first meeting. Soon we had a 15 minute break at the hotel, and then we were off to see Pippin with my boyfriend, KYLE DEAN MASSEY (Kyle is not actually my boyfriend, I just find him very attractive). And so the scheduled stay at that pace the next couple days. It's so interesting because we were all working so hard with little to no downtime, but it does't feel like work. The thing I appreciate the most about my fellow ITO's is that I don't feel like I'm ever fighting to get my voice heard or debating over decisions. Things just flow, it's a conversation, and by the time the conversation is done we've produced two different kinds of workshops. And just as easily we can leave the room and laugh about a little girl calling pigeons chickens for hours. I'm so thankful for moments like this. I'm so thankful that we were able to work the Broadway Flea Market and I can hear things like, "We've been looking for this for years." Or see a little girl over joyed after we sold her a Matilda Script. But my favorite phrase I heard that day was, "I was a Thespian!" HOLY. COW. THERE ARE A LOT OF THESPIANS OUT THERE. We gave away literally every thespian Alumni button we had and it just really puts into perspective how large this organization is, how many people it has reached, and how much it has helped them on their path to adulthood. 

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N-ever lose track of your fellow ITO or advisers while walking the streets.
Y-ou are the luckiest person to have these opportunities.
C-are a lot if you want others to care at all.

Just three of the many things this past weekend taught me.

Friday started around 2:45 in the morning Iowa time and ended around midnight New York time. What happened in between?
Lunch at John's Pizza (the best), a meeting with Alex Sarian
(go check out his TedTalk, a grand tour of Lincoln Center complete with a spotting of John Lithgow, my first subway ride, and admiration of incredible theaters, and lovely dinner with the ITO board and advisers.

The evening ending with PiPPiN--my favorite, and most recently performed, musical. Following the show we got to go ONSTAGE (I know, I know, crazy) and meet Kyle Dean Massey and Rachel Bay Jones, both who are proud thespian alum. Left me speechless.

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I hope New York City is recovering from the storm the ITO brought this weekend! We went in and had a WONDERFUL time.

The first day started off with working at the Broadway Cares office with Joe Norton and staff explained to us, more in depth, what Broadway Cares is and what it supports! They keep up great functions and events during the year. Believe me when I say they are BEYOND interesting *cough cough* Broadway Bares *cough cough*.

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This past weekend was a weekend of firsts: my first trip as an International Thespian Officer, first time in New York City, my first Broadway show, and most importantly my first Broadway Cares Flea Market. And they won’t be my lasts.

The weekend began early Friday morning when I flew into the Big Apple and met up with the five other ITO, Scott Wilson, and Diane Carr in our Times Square hotel. Times Square in itself embodies the hustle bustle of America. Large billboards, bright lights, and various street performers became my morning commute for the next two days. On Friday the ITO learned a little more about Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS from Joe Norton and Jason Daunter. BC/EFA raises $12-13 million dollars every year, and have been working with the International Thespian Society since 1999.The amount of support the organization has for the development of AIDS research, and towards the AIDS community is inspirational. After the home office visit we had the privilege to meet with Alex Sarian, the Director of Finance and New Business at the Lincoln Center Education, Mr. Sarian is world renowned for advocating for the arts. Picking his brain and listening to him explain just how powerful six words can be helped us better understand our message with advocacy. Thanks to Mr. Sarian, the ITO received a tour of Lincoln Center (to give you a taste of how expensive it is, the lobby of the Met had a 24 karat gold gate).

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The cancelation of Spamalot at South Williamsport (Pennsylvania) High School, perhaps because of the musical's gay content, has prompted widespread media coverage, led by Howard Sherman, the  former executive director of the American Theatre Wing. Sherman has posted several blogs about the cancelation, most recently around the firing of the school's contracted theatre teacher Dawn Birch. This evening, the South Williamsport School  Board will meet and likely discuss the controversy. The cancelation drew the attention of New York Times reporter Patrick Healy on Monday; in his story Healy details the timeline and disputed facts of the case, including the school superintendent's assertion that the play had never been "formally" approved--something that others have challenged. At this writing,

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